Effective September 2015, Lorna C. Donatone will assume responsibilities for the K-12 business globally as CEO Sodexo Schools worldwide. Prior to this new role, she was Chief Operating Officer and President of Sodexo Education where she led Sodexo’s business at nearly 500 public school districts and at more than 850 college and university campuses, including private K – 12 schools, in the United States, overseeing the work of more than 70,000 employees. She joined Sodexo in 1999 and has held several key leadership roles in the company, including President of School Services in 2007 and President of Spirit Cruises in 2002.
Donatone is an industry leader and demonstrates her commitment through her community and industry involvement. She has been a National Restaurant Association board member since 2005 and became a trustee of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation in 2011, where she is currently Vice Chair of the Board. Donatone is Past Chair of the Board of Directors of the Women’s Foodservice Forum and was elected as a member of the Board of Trustees for The Culinary Institute of America in 2008. She also previously served as a member of the Board of Directors for Entertainment Cruises. She is also a member of the Board of Directors of Jamba Juice, Inc. Lorna Chairs the Texas Christian University Neeley School of Business International Board of Visitors as well as is a member of the Tulane University Business School council.
Donatone was recognized by NAFEM in 2013 with a doctorate in foodservice, by w2wlink.com in 2010 with an Ascendancy Award for her work in mentoring women and by Girls, Inc. in 2009 for her work in empowering young women. And in 2015, Lorna received the Trailblazer award from the Women’s Foodservice Forum.
Donatone began her career in public accounting with Deloitte & Touche in Dallas, Texas, and has worked in the airline, banking and high-tech industries. She has a Bachelor of Science in Management from Tulane University in New Orleans and a Masters in Business Administration from Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth, Texas.
Women have made huge strides in their pursuit of higher education and now earn more associate, bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees than men. Girls are studying and excelling in science and mathematics. Yet, according to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), the dramatic increase in girls’ educational achievements in scientific and mathematical subjects has not been matched by similar increases in the representation of women working as engineers and computing professionals. In fact, they remain noticeably absent from STEM careers despite strong job growth in the past decade and solid projections for continued growth. Just 12 percent of engineers are women, and the number of women in computing has fallen from 35 percent in 1990 to just 26 percent today. The numbers are especially low for Hispanic, African American and American Indian women. Black women make up 1 percent of the engineering workforce and 3 percent of the computing workforce, while Hispanic women hold just 1 percent of jobs in each field.
There’s a lot of long-term incentive to get girls interested in STEM early: according to Forbes, careers in STEM industries offer better compensation and more career advancement opportunities. In fact, women who hold STEM positions earn 92 cents to the dollar versus 77 cents for women in other fields. Yet the STEM workforce in the U.S. remains 74% male.
The problem is complex and there is not a singular solution. However, one strategy to plant the STEM seed in girls early and address negative stereotypes head-on is through mentoring. Mentoring has the potential to create the radical paradigm shift we need to ignite girls and young women’s interest in STEM early and encourage them to pursue STEM careers later. Mentoring holds tremendous potential to grow the number of girls and young women in STEM and grow them quickly. It also offers a flexible approach that can be adjusted to meet girls and young women where they are and where their individual interests naturally gravitate to. Mentoring is an easy and comfortable way to introduce, nurture and encourage interest in science, math and engineering.
By 2022, the U.S. will need more than 9 million STEM professionals to fill projected job openings. With only 18% of bachelor’s degrees conferred in core STEM subjects, the talent gap is huge. Clearly, given women’s academic accomplishments, it’s not a lack of ability. While women have broken a lot of barriers, there are still barriers in pursuing STEM careers. An article in the New York Times by a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Yale is a disturbing revelation, illustrating why even women who receive STEM degrees may not pursue careers in these fields or stay in STEM professions. There are obstacles all along the way starting in childhood with “scientists as geeks” stereotypes discouraging all but the most determined girls. In other cultures, a gift for math is often seen as demonstrating that a person is intuitive and creative. Sadly, this is not the case in the U.S. and it needs to change, fast.
By creating a pathway that begins in elementary school and goes through middle school, high school and continues into higher education, and early career, women can establish and maintain a foundation of knowledge and support that will sustain them into their career. And, since only 41% of the women who enter the workforce continue in the same kind of job 10 years later, mentoring relationships can provide the stability and encouragement during their early career phase. Programs such as Tech Trek, a week-long summer camp for girls and Tech Savvy, career conferences for girls, help breakdown stereotypes about the traditionally male-dominated STEM fields and teach girls that these fields can lead to successful, exciting and lucrative careers.
The female pioneers in STEM careers were determined to forge ahead despite discrimination. They were helped by the demand for experts during World War II, when men were drafted or enlisted, for top-secret research projects. Americans recognized that science and scientists were valuable, and opportunities opened up for women. We have the opportunity again to support and champion young women interested in science, technology and innovation – to excite and inspire them about the possibilities. Everyone benefits when our girls and young women can make full use of their abilities and supporting STEM mentoring is a clear win-win.